I recently wrote about easy ways to lower airfare costs if you’re traveling during the holidays.
Now I want to tell you 5 quick ideas for protecting your money if you’re away this November, December or even into the New Year.
Tip #1: Have a Game Plan
For starters, you need to establish a plan, particularly if you go overseas, according to Charles Schwab VP-Branch Manager Colleen O’Brien.
Vacationing abroad can be exciting and memorable, but such a trip also requires a lot more upfront homework on your part. Think through what you’d do if lost your wallet, passport, credit cards or cash.
One smart way to deal with these potential pitfalls is to write down important information and keep it in a secure place as you travel. Even better, many folks are backing up their important documents on services like Dropbox or Google Drive.
And because trips are often more expensive than you planned, O’Brien says it also helps to have a plan in place that includes an emergency savings account and the appropriate contact numbers to protect yourself and save your trip from disaster.
Tip #2: Put Your Bills on Auto Pay
If you know you’ll be away from home for a week or more, and you have bills coming due, don’t run the risk of forgetting to make payments or having late fees.
A better strategy is to put your bills on auto pay, or set up online bill payment, which allows you to access your accounts and pay your bills from any location worldwide.
O’Brien says Schwab Bank has a mobile app that lets you pay bills on the go.
Other banks offer similar services. And many institutions let you move cash around from one account to another, including brokerage accounts, if you need extra money in your checking or savings accounts.
Tip #3: Watch Out for Fees
Whenever you’re traveling away from home, whether domestically or internationally, consider how you’ll avoid pesky fees you might encounter to handle your banking needs.
This is where the ability to deposit checks remotely with a mobile app, having unlimited ATM-fee reimbursement, or no foreign exchange transaction fees on your credit cards all come in mighty handy.
Also, check with your bank or credit card company before you to find out if there’s 24-hour phone access to a live agent, concierge type services, or any emergency benefits and perks (like the ability to quickly get you a new card) available to traveling customers.
Tip #4: Guard Against Fraud
Just because you’re having fun traveling, that doesn’t mean scammers have gone on vacation.
In fact, when you’re busy during the holidays, that’s actually one of the peak seasons for con artists who prey upon unsuspecting potential targets.
But you can avoid becoming a victim of financial fraud by taking just a few precautions.
First, put a halt to your mail. You don’t want a pile of mail collecting outside your door, showing would be burglars that you’re not home.
Next, don’t carry unnecessary documents with you while traveling. You shouldn’t have your social security card in your wallet, for example. If a thief steals it, they can do some serious damage through many forms of identity theft.
Additionally, even though it’s tempting to post a lot of pictures on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter – telling your friends “Hey look at me, I’m spending Christmas in Paris!” – it’s best not to do so.
Otherwise, you’re just letting crooks know that you’re out of the country for an extended period of time. Determined thieves can piece together lots of information about you online – including your home address — just by using electronic databases, looking at social media, and scouring other public websites.
Tip #5: Don’t Be a Statistic
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than 102 million people flew domestically in November and December 2011. Another 22 million individuals flew internationally.
It’s one thing to be a statistic on the positive side – as in, “Yes! I’m one of the fortunate ones who get to travel this holiday season!” But you don’t want to wind up being a negative statistic – as in 12 million people fell victim to identity theft last year.
So if this year’s holiday season will have you or your family jet-setting and on the go for extended period of time, just stop and think before you act. Use common sense. Don’t wear lots of jewelry and bling in places you’ve never been; that’s just asking for trouble.
As a visitor to some other city or country, you’ll probably already stand out. Don’t make yourself an easy mark for con men and thieves who want to pickpocket you.
By taking some smart steps now – and while you’re traveling – you can ensure that your vacation won’t be ruined by some financial scam or another economic calamity.
It will also help your time away from home to be more enjoyable if you can travel with confidence knowing that your finances remain secure while you’re away from home – and when you return.